x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

The Kop in a world of denial

By backing the punished Suarez, Liverpool supporters may not be racist but believe - wrongly - they are being conspired against.

Tom Adeyemi, centre, the Oldham Athletic player, claimed he was racially abused by spectators on the Kop. It is an unfortunate incident and comes at a time when a Liverpool player is being punished for racism.
Tom Adeyemi, centre, the Oldham Athletic player, claimed he was racially abused by spectators on the Kop. It is an unfortunate incident and comes at a time when a Liverpool player is being punished for racism.

The Liverpool website is asking fans to choose their favourite Kenny Dalglish moment of the past 12 months.

An interesting teaser, but I have another which may be more pressing: why did sections of the Kop - that wise and witty bastion of sporting behaviour - chant the name of Luis Suarez while a black opponent wept on the pitch?

The player in question was Tom Adeyemi, of Oldham Athletic, who was reduced to tears of rage on Friday night following alleged racist abuse from a Liverpool fan on the Kop.

But while he was consoled by teammates and Liverpool players alike, sections of the crowd chanted about one of their own players who is currently serving an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

The chant was not deafening, but it was loud enough for a television commentator to note, so must have involved more than a handful of fans.

So, I ask again: why?

Perhaps the Kop had no idea that Adeyemi had allegedly suffered racist abuse, and was simply using the break in play to voice support for a player they believe has been unjustly treated.

If that was the case, then the timing was an extremely unfortunate coincidence. Such knowledgeable fans would surely know better.

Another explanation might be that the Kop believed Adeyemi had suffered no racial abuse whatsoever.

An early defence to emanate from Anfield was that the rogue supporter had spiced up his verbal barrage with the word "Manc" - a reference to Oldham's proximity to Manchester. Adeyemi must have misheard this as "black", they argue.

While conceivable - at a stretch - that does not explain the response.

Surely a body as wise as the Kop would realise that mass chanting of Suarez's name would not be a suitable way to convince Adeyemi of his error.

Yet another possible explanation is that the Kop is a hotbed of virulent racism. Once muted, the Anfield racists have been unfettered by the Suarez affair and the club's implicit condoning of racial slurs.

In my opinion, that is not correct either.

Because of their success, Liverpool have a multi-ethnic fan base and Anfield is not renowned as a ground where black or Asian fans fear to tread.

My personal interpretation is that a toxic atmosphere has shrouded Anfield, an atmosphere in which racism is no longer an actual issue but a trumped-up charge, the stick with which dark forces have decided to beat Liverpool.

Amid such paranoia, it becomes inconceivable that a black player could be genuinely offended by racist abuse. In this fugue of mistrust, a young weeping man does not deserve sympathy but contempt: he is not a player whose dream night was wrecked by an idiot but simply another stooge seeking to besmirch a hallowed name.

The chanting of Suarez's name was fuelled not by racism but defiance against a conspiracy that exists only in their minds.

And who sowed the seed of such paranoia?

Step forward Dalglish, the manager who has consistently refused to accept that Suarez did anything wrong, instead focusing his ire on Evra, Manchester United, the FA and the media.

It is Dalglish who stoked this fire, and therefore Dalglish who is partly responsible for the disgraceful chants which occurred while Adeyemi wept.

There are a lot of rules to digest

Whatever great moments he has achieved in the past 12 months, his mishandling of the Suarez affair overshadows them all.

The food condiment industry should have released a profit warning this week after the British Royal Mint struck a coin explaining football’s offside rule.

The new 50p piece, released to celebrate London’s hosting of the summer Olympics, features a diagrammatical illustration of the rule on its “tails” side.

The likely presence of such a coin in every man’s pocket is devastating news for manufacturers of table salt, sugar, ketchup et al, whose primary function of culinary enhancement was already under intense pressure from the health lobby.

Their survival as a ubiquitous feature of dining tables was based solely on their famous secondary role as offside rule teaching aids to women, children and graduates of minor public schools who played only cricket and rugby.

Traditionally, the ketchup bottle would represent the goalkeeper due to its imposing height.

Purists generally favour salt cellars to represent the attacking team and pepper pots as defenders, securing additional “players” from neighbouring tables if necessary. This was a forerunner to the sort of loan deals which now see Thierry Henry back at Arsenal.

For remedial students – by which I mean the ex-public schoolboys – lines of salt can be laid out to represent pitch markings. Please note, this requires a traditional single-bored salt cellar, as opposed to those Continental-style grinders which blight the modern game. It also requires a sympathetic mother or cafe proprietor.

With sachets of tartare sauce representing assistant referees, you can see how an entire industry rests upon a nation’s sporting ignorance.

The condiment makers must act fast.

My advice is to scrub the ingredients information in favour of brief fact panels titled, “Tennis Scoring For Dummies”, “Judo, What D’You Do”, and “Snooker: Let’s Go Over It One More Time”.

sports@thenational.ae